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Pastor Gabrielson presents his final service
ARLINGTON Carl Gabrielson dreams of living in an intentional community.
A child of the 1960s who is now 63, he is retiring after 13 and a half years as pastor at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Arlington.
His future plans include leading personal retreats as a spiritual director as well as reading, both theology and fiction. He will also continue walking at least 10,000 steps a day.
Gabrielson's last service is Sunday, June 29.
"We reach a point when we want less responsibility," Gabrielson told The Arlington Times on June 20.
"For the most part, I've thoroughly enjoyed this congregation," he said.
"I've been very energized by the adults who have studied with me."
He believes his greatest contribution has been teaching the Bible and Lutheran Church traditions to adults, and is also proud of the church's childcare program.
"We've got the biggest child care facility in Arlington," he said.
"I love it when the kids see me in town and call out, 'There's Pastor Carl.'"
The kids love him, too, according to Laurie Breon, the church's music director.
"He dresses up as Biblical characters and the kids thought he was Jesus because of his beard," Breon said.
For Breon, it's his knowledge of The Word that makes him special.
"His depth of knowledge is unprecedented compared to any pastor I have worked with."
Breon is a credible source in the Lutheran world, having a father who studied in the seminary and a grandfather, great- grandfather, three uncles and a cousin who have served as ministers.
She also appreciates his knowledge of the music and how it relates to the church.
Breon has been in and out of Arlington since 1973, and has been music director at the church for 12 of Gabrielson's 13-plus years.
"He knows the hymns very well because he had a roommate in college who studied music and they had endless conversations about hymn tunes," Breon said.
"I learned a lot from him about the origins of hymns and worship practices. He was always easy to work with and accepted my ideas. I grew as a believer as a result of working with him," Breon said.
She and the choir chose some of Gabrielson's favorites for a farewell concert June 21.
"He told us he wanted something serious and so we did Handel's "Hallelujah." One of the choir members, Warren Hopkins, a.k.a. the Arlington School District's Deputy Superintendent, even wrote a song for him, Breon said.
"He wrote 'For the Plans,' based on Jeremiah 29 11."
Breon recited the text:
"I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
Plans for good and not evil, to give you a future and a hope."
They also sang "Jesus Loves Me," "Because he loves the kids," Breon said.
Gabrielson plans to stay in Arlington, where he has been active on several boards, including the Arlington Library Board, the Arlington Ministerial Association and formerly with Housing Hope. He is also on an advisory board for Josephine Sunset Home.
"The library is my passion," Gabrielson said. He was very disappointed that the recent bond did not pass but has faith that it will pass eventually.
"We just have to keep trying," he said.
Gabrielson grew up in many locations around the U.S., including California, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa. He and his wife, Ruth, adopted three children while living in Japan.
"After I finished seminary, I wanted an overseas experience, so I volunteered for two years in Japan." He stayed on for another 18 years as a missionary.
With the kids grown and out on their own, the big house provides plenty of room for his future plans.
Gabrielson is a certified spiritual leader and he plans to offer spiritual retreats in the big, historical home near the church on Dunham Avenue that they bought from the Munizzas.
"It was built in 1950 by the Almsteads, who built the White Horse Tavern," Gabrielson said.
"It's our dream home," he said. He sees potential in the house for his future intentional Christian Community.
"It won't be right away. It will take some time to redefine my role in the community."
Gabrielson will be replaced by an interim pastor, Marilyn Schultz Rothermel, while the congregation proceeds through the steps of selecting a new pastor.
A member of the choir who has been a lifetime member of the church that was established in 1893, Merilyn McClure agrees with Breon.
"Pastor Carl is a dedicated worker, a wonderful teacher, a very caring and compassionate man. He will be missed," McClure said.
His final service to the Arlington congregation will be at 10:30 a.m., June 29.